Kingsbury: Jalen Thompson is ‘everything you want’ for the Cardinals
TEMPE — The cards were stacked against Arizona Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson coming out of college.
The lone pick in the 2019 supplemental draft (fifth round), Thompson did not get a full offseason like his fellow rookies who were taken in the traditional draft months before.
Missing out on organized team activities and rookie minicamp, Thompson was thrust onto the roster with training camp already underway. It was a whirlwind to say the least for Thompson, who went from the college ranks to an NFL field seemingly overnight.
Even his first media availability seemed rushed, with the rookie meeting with Arizona reporters in the press box before taking the field.
For many, being thrown into the fire like that would cause some major head-spinning. But not for Thompson, who wasted little time getting his coaching staff’s attention.
Not only did he make the active roster, the safety started his first game five weeks into his rookie campaign. And even though he was lost for most of 2020 due to an ankle injury, Thompson rebounded with a stellar third season behind a team-leading 121 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defensed.
On Friday, Thompson saw all that hard work culminate into a three-year contract extension worth a reported $40 million, with $24.5 million guaranteed.
“It’s incredible, he’s everything you want in your organization from a work ethic standpoint,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “The way he practices, it’s 120% each and every day, each and every snap. Whatever drill he’s doing, he’s going at it.
“To be drafted in the fifth round of the supplemental draft and end up starting that year and just get better and better each year, it’s just a tremendous story. I couldn’t be happier or prouder for him.”
Despite the long and winding road, Thompson felt this day would eventually come, envisioning as much in college. It was all about having the right mindset.
And just because he secured the bag, don’t expect Thompson to take his foot off the pedal.
That chip on his shoulder isn’t going away any time soon. There’s still plenty to accomplish on the football field and in the leadership department.
“(My personal expectations have) kind of been the same but it was one of those things just with confidence that those expectations kind of grew for me a little bit,” Thompson said.
“Now, I’m kind of on the mindset to be the best safety I can be and to try to help these younger guys get better and bring those guys up with me as well. Just continuing to be a leader and continuing to stay on top of everything.”